My Odd Jobs – Part Two. (2011)

Location : Sprowston, Great Yarmouth, Gorleston

Now, other jobs I did as well – so that was just before I really started as a proper job. Yeah, before the restaurant I worked one year – this was 1960 – I worked the whole of the six weeks on one of the piers in Great Yarmouth called Britannia Pier, which is still there. Yeah, it's got a theatre, as well, the Britannia Theatre. Which operates in the summer with all the shows – Morecambe and Wise used to have, and Tommy Trinder, singing groups as well, and on at the theatre. So we went along to the – Mike and I again, Mike, my bosom friend – went along to the unemployment office and said, ‘What have you got?' And they said, ‘Oh, there's a job, two jobs on the pier. There's one on the Dodgems,' it's like a fairground at the end of the pier, right at the end of the pier, right in the sea, really. You know, above the sea – you look down through the planks and see the sea underneath. ‘There's the Dodgems, one of you can go on the Dodgems,' and there's what they call the – I think it was called the Tunnel of Love, where they had sort of ducks, big, you know – like the birds, the duck. And little seats inside so you sat in it and it went round on a sort of on a railway line inside. And there was the Horrors as well, there was the Ghost Train.

Odd jobs MIX/012/DCb - Cooke pier picture 002.jpg (2224px x 1456px)

Oh yeah, I used to love that.

And there were two jobs, and so we saw the chap who ran the fairgrounds – mini fairground – at the end of Britannia Pier. And he said, ‘Right, you David, you're on the Dodgems, and you Mike, you're on the Snails.' I think the Snails were the ducks, I can't remember –

Oh, the Snails!

The Snails. They might have been the Snails, yeah.

Oh, I remember them, yeah!

[Laughs] Two little seats, yeah. When my grandmother used to come down to stay, I used to take her on there, you know, myself. [Laughs] And then there was another one, a sort of Jack and Jill they were in a sort of big bucket, and that used to come round and round, and that was on Joyland that was called. Anyway, I was on the Dodgems and Mike – I was lucky, I was very lucky because I could – you had a little hut where you took the money, or were supposed to take the money, but I didn't work it that way. I didn't sit in my hut all day because again, you know, that would have driven me up the wall. So I think it was sixpence to go on, you know, on the Dodgems. So I used to go on, I used to jump on the back of the Dodgems and take the money, you know, on the back of a Dodgem and then chat up the girls, you know, that used to come on. Whereas poor old Mike, he'd be stuck in his hut all day! [Laughs] Just taking the money, you know from the –

I can remember people doing that on the Dodgems, yeah.

So I did that, we did that one year together, so I mean that, nothing really spectacular happened there, we just did those jobs. The only thing that I can remember particularly about that, well, you know, a particular instance, is one day it was pouring with rain. We'd got no customers at all, and we used to have a float – there used to start us off in the morning with a float, probably something like five pounds of a float, so that if someone gave you a pound note or a ten shilling note, you know, you had enough money to give them some change. And that was all in a box, and you had it in a, well, you took your money and put it in a box. And one day it was raining and we went over to see the chap at the Ghost Train. Well I left all my money in my cabin and Mike I think left his money in his cabin, and we went to talk to this chap in the Ghost Train, and then I went back to my box, and all my money had gone – all the float and all the day's takings, as well. The whole lot – someone had pinched it! So I went to see the boss man and told him and he said, ‘Well I'm sorry, you'll have to pay it back.' He said, ‘You know, that's your fault, you shouldn't have left it there. You'll have to pay it back.' He said, ‘I won't ask you to pay back the takings for the day,' so he was quite good in that respect, but he said, ‘You'll have to pay back the five pound float.' And he said, ‘What I'll do, is every week I'll take a pound off you, so you'll get a pound less.' So that was a lesson to be learned. So I never took my eyes off the float again, you know. But on the other hand, again, you know, several people would give you a little bit more, or ride again, or whatever, so it wasn't – it didn't turn out to be that bad.

Then the other thing that we did was at Christmas, because we got Christmas holidays. So, what do they need at Christmas? They need more postmen.

So what did we do? We went down to the post office, Mike and I again, and said, you know, ‘We're available to Christmas Eve,' so we did a couple of weeks on the Christmas card-

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Post rounds. And I actually got my own road in Gorleston as the round. And so we used to go, again, it would be early in the morning, very early in the morning – we started at six in the morning and we used to have to – the cards would be semi divided up already by somebody else in the post office. The main post office was near the town hall in Great Yarmouth, just on the other side of the road, so we had to report there. And we had these pigeon holes, wooden pigeon holes on the wall, and you had to divide up all the cards into the roads – Middleton Road and whatever, Elmhurst Road, Elm Avenue and all the rest of them. So all the postcards would go into the racks, and then you'd get them all in order, then you'd subdivide them so, you know, you'd start at one and finish at ninety-nine in Middleton Road and so on. So your bag would be absolutely full of cards – this huge great sack – and you had, you got a bus pass. So the bus stopped outside the post office, you caught the bus to Middleton Road, the bus stopped in Middleton Road, and then you started your round. And of course there was a mess there as well, of course, with Christmas cards. [Laughs] As people still do today, to give the postman a Christmas box, so I used to knock on the door and therefore the rich ladies … because Middleton Road was quite a rich road, knock on the door and ‘Hello, Mrs. Smith, I brought you your Christmas cards, you see!' Instead of putting them – I couldn't get them through the letter box! [Laughs] And then you'd get, you know, you'd get a tip in due course, so that was another thing that we did.

So you had to carry the big bag, didn't you?

Yeah, it was huge!

And sometimes there were so, you know, just before Christmas, there were so many that we had to do a double shift. We did one and then went back to the post office and did another delivery, you know in the same day.

Did you do parcels as well or was it just cards?

I can't remember parcels too much. I think that parcels came separately. Yeah, because that would have been really rather too much to carry because the cards were bad enough.

So people must have got a lot more cards then.

Maybe. Yeah, maybe.

It certainly was a very big, you know, a very big bag! [Laughs]

So it was a good job, really.

That was good. And again, it was very snowy that year that those particular – we did it for three years, but one particular year I remember tramping through the snow, so you know, it really was quite thick. And so really we've come to, I think I've covered most things up to that date, because there were some other jobs after, but we've come up to the time I started at Norwich Union. I finished at Birds Eye, I had enough to buy my first car, and then I joined Norwich Union and …

And that puts that totally into context! One of the things you said right at the beginning was that when you started at Norwich Union you worked, I can't remember if it was nine to five or something …

That's right.

And then when it's finished all your time's your own, for leisure!

Yes!

And you could do all sorts of leisure, and you said at these other jobs it was just work, wasn't it?

Yes, it was.

Just work, work, work. That must have seemed like real – wow, you've got this time now.

Yes, yes. And then that's when I started acting and performing in plays and things like that. Yeah. But then, even then, the lure of the five pound notes, if you like, called me, and my father, he liked working as well and earning a little bit extra, and he found himself a job – these were summer jobs, again – he found himself a job on Marine Parade in Great Yarmouth outside one of the theatres on the main strip in Great Yarmouth, and it was running a beef burger stall. [Laughs] And he did it for a few evenings a week, and then for some reason he – perhaps he couldn't do it – and he asked me to, if I'd stand in for him. And so I went along to this beef burger joint. It was just a stall, and we just had a couple of stoves there, and we cooked the sausages on there and had the rolls. But these were special, because these were very long sausages. They were this long – a foot long! And the roll we put them in was also, you know, a foot long. And they were called doozle dogs – instead of hot dogs they were called doozle dogs. So on the stand it said ‘Doozle Dogs Store,' and from six o'clock at night until ten o'clock at night my father and I used to be on this doozle dogs store, so again, we were earning a little bit more pocket money working there. That was one summer. I was working at Norwich Union, as well, so I'd get home from Norwich Union and go straight off to the doozle dogs store and sell doozle dogs.

And again it was still crowded, wasn't it, with the crowds of people?

It was, and we had queues of people –

You must have done.

Because they were so unusual – I think they were German, German sausages.

Sounds it, doesn't it?

Yeah. And they had all the mustards and things to go on the top, you know, tomato sauce, and if we felt hungry, you know, we could have – I think we sold other things as well, you know, hot dogs and other things as well, but it was mainly the doozle dogs. [Laughs] So I had some funny words in my career, like the tenderometer and doozle dogs, and we always would have, you know, a laugh about it. And then another year Father found a job in the old time music hall at Gorleston. In Gorleston Pavilion Theatre every year they had an old time music hall where they had all these old time songs and dances and people doing the –

Like The Good Old Days.

Like The Good Old Days on television, exactly. And they had a chairman with a top hat on – a big, fat man sitting at a desk on top and announcing the next feature coming on the programme. Now, with the old time music hall at Gorleston, instead of having rows and rows of seats where the people just sat, like the old, the one in Leeds-

Whatever it is, yeah.

They had tables, and people sat round these round tables, and there were about eight or ten.

Sounds really nice.

Sitting around the table. And they had a bar and they had waiters. So my father and I became waiters at the old time music hall. You know, just for the summer season, for six weeks. And so we used to, again, we had our own, like when I was at V's, we had our own section of tables. We looked after these people, and they changed, you know, every night, there were different people every night. So we used to go along to the table and say, ‘What do you want to order?' So we used to write it down on our little pad, and then go back to the bar and get all of the drinks, bring it back, and then you'd say, ‘Well that'll be three pounds sixty-nine pence, please.' So they'd give you a fiver and you'd say, ‘Oh, well I haven't got any change, I'll just go back to the bar.' And you get the change, and of course on your tray some of the drinks would have spilt a bit, and so the tray would be a bit wet, you see. So you'd get his change from three pounds sixty-nine pence from a fiver and you'd put it on the tray, and the odd drinks would be swilling around, you see, and you'd say, ‘Well there's your change,' and rather than pick it up because it was all wet, he'd say, ‘Oh, well, keep the change.' So you know you'd get your tip that way. [Laughs] I mean they'd give you a tip anyway, probably –

A trick.

A little trick. All the waiters did it, you know, it was a common thing. And then what I used to have to do at a particular time in the evening is to get the chairman's pint of beer. So I went to the bar and said, ‘Can I have the chairman's pint of beer'. Well he had a special glass because what he used to do was – when he got the pint of beer he used to just go [slurping sound] like that and drink the whole lot off in one, you see. And a pint of beer, to drink a pint of beer is quite an effort. So he had a special glass. Within the glass, and you couldn't see this, was a little extra piece so he only actually had in his glass a half a pint because there was a piece inside, you see – a clear piece of glass inside. So he was only drinking half a pint, and people were going, ‘Oh, you know, fantastic!' [Claps] So that was another job I did, waiting at the old time music hall. And then, one of the last things I did there, at the music hall, was on, I think it was on a Friday night or a Saturday night towards the end of the season, in fact it was the nineteenth of September, it was my twenty-first birthday. And I actually spent my twenty-first birthday in an old time music hall as a waiter, and my father and grandfather – my grandfather came down, as well that evening – and we went just across the road to the Pier Hotel into the bar and we had a celebratory drink to celebrate my twenty-first birthday. [Laughs] And my grandfather gave me a watch – my twenty-first birthday watch, which I've still got today, so I, you know, I treasure that.

And then coming right up to date, what I have done over the years is a love of Dinky Toys and people know that I like Dinky Toys, and I buy Dinky Toys, if I've got surplus Dinky Toys I sell them, as well, back to, you know, other people. People come here with a big box full of Dinky Toys and say, ‘Would you like to buy these?' And I buy them and take the ones that I want and sell off, you know, the ones that I don't want.

Oh right, yes.

So I've been able, I in fact set up a little business in addition to what, you know, all the other jobs I was doing in the daytime, to buy and sell Dinky Toys. So that's been quite good.

Yes, I can imagine. It's been quite a sort of market, hasn't it?

Yes, that's right. So I made some more money that way. And we wanted to send our children to private school, and so the money I made from buying and selling Dinky Toys enabled me to pay the school fees for the high school.

That's amazing, isn't it? That's quite a business, really.

Yeah. I used to go off at weekends, on a Saturday and Sunday and, you know, set up a stall at toy fairs and places like that and sell stuff at auction. So that's another way that I've, you know, made a bit of money on the side, as it were. And then, I liked Dinky Toys and Corgi Toys and other toys so much that I've written those books. In fact I've written one on Corgi Toys as well, but I sold the last one recently. But those books have in fact given me some pocket money as well. Because I sell about a thousand books a year, so altogether the Dinky Toy one has sold about fifteen – no, more than fifteen thousand, I think, fifteen thousand copies, and the Corgi Toy is a bestseller, as well, so that sells well. So I get some royalties from that, and also a – you can, there's a special system where, if your book is in the library and it's taken out of the library, you get a payment every time the book is borrowed from the library. So last week I got a check for ten pounds because, you know, two hundred people had taken my book out from the library. So that's a little bit extra, as well, to sort of, you know, icing on the cake, really.

And then, just before – to finalize things – just before Christmas I was looking, reading the newspaper, again for ideas for fundraising, raising money for my charity, and read through the newspaper, turned over the final news page, when you got into the sport and jobs pages and things at the back of the paper, which I don't normally – I don't read anyway because I'm not interested in the sport at all, and I'm not interested in getting another job. And I turned over the page, and that was the end, and right in the middle the jobs vacancies, situations vacancies on that side of the page, right in the middle it said, ‘Collector consultant required for auction house.' I thought, ‘Huh, that sounds interesting!' So I read it and everything they'd written down applied to me. I ticked, as they say, I ticked all the boxes. It said part time, so it wasn't full time, it said in Aylsham, which is not too far away, it said you'll be dealing with toys and models and dolls and teddy bears and memorabilia and you'll be working with, you know, the experts there, and you'd go out and about and find people with collections that they want to sell, and you know, sort of reasonable wage paid or something. I went through and I ticked all the boxes and said, ‘Oh, this applies to me!' And I said to Lesley, ‘What would you think if I went out to work again?' [Laughs] And she said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I'll, you know, be happy about that.' I said, ‘It's only two days a week,' I said, ‘this sounds just right up my street!'

Sounds like you!

Sounds like me, exactly!

You're doing it already!

So they said ring for an application form, so I rang straight away and said, ‘Can you send me an application form?' That arrived the next day, I filled it in and sent it off straight away because the closing date was the twenty-fourth of December, and I sent it away before that and I got a letter back, just after Christmas saying, ‘We'd like to interview you.' So I went along for the interview, got on really well with them, they got on really well with me, I told them all my background and everything, and they said, ‘We'll be in touch.' And so I said, ‘Fine.' Got another letter – ‘We'd like you to come for a second interview. Come and see what we do,' and so on and so forth. And so I went along for the second interview, they showed me all around in the auction house and all the stuff they'd got, and they said, ‘We'd like you to start next week.' [Laughs] So I said, ‘Well, there's some questions I need to ask you,' so I said, ‘can I come back and ask you some questions?' And so I went back for another interview and interviewed them, and they answered all my questions satisfactorily, and I said, ‘Yes, I'd like to join.' And he said, ‘Come start next week.' So I actually started – that was on a Thursday, I think – and I started on the Tuesday.

Sounds really interesting, actually.

[Laughs] So, and last week they said, ‘We got, we need – we must get the catalogue out by Friday,' this Friday – last Friday. ‘Must get the catalogue out by Friday because it needs to go onto the Internet this weekend – the auction is on the fifteenth, which is next week. So can you come in for an extra day to do some more stuff so we can finish off?' So I said, ‘Yeah, I'll come in.' So I came in on the Thursday and the Friday – went in three days last week and we finished it. Friday night we finished it, put it to bed, and the catalogue was all finished and I –

So you have to research items?

I just love, you know, I loved everything I was doing. I'm using one of these, exactly like this, dictating without writing it down, because had I written it down, you know, it would have taken twice as long, they wouldn't have finished it. So that's –

Yeah!

I've come full circle, from the time I was four doing my little nursery rhyme for the church Sunday school – ‘I had a donkey and he wouldn't go. Do you think I'd hurt him? No, no, no!' [Laughs] And they gave me a prize and I was hooked. So now, sixty-odd years later, I'm now working again for pocket money to keep my bike on the road.

Yeah, to keep your bike on the road! [Laughs]

No, actually, we were thinking of school fees for my grandchildren now! So I don't know. I think I've covered everything.

Wow, that's – yeah. Well that sounds brilliant. I mean, it's just so you, isn't it? It's just so – I think you'll just learn so much, won't you?

Oh, I will!

I mean it's such a challenge, the different areas of it.

Exactly. I said to the – he said, ‘We're selling all this lot in this huge room,' and there was some fur coats! And I said, ‘What, fur coats?' And he said, ‘Yeah!' And I said, ‘I'll go look at them.' And I went and looked at them, and they had the labels in the back, and they, you knew what they were, and I have a friend who used to work for the Norwich Fur Company, so if I got stuck I could give him a ring and say, ‘Look, Frank, I've got this fur coat. Can you help me – can you give me an idea how much it's worth?' So I'll be, you know, I'll be – well already last week I was learning considerable amounts, and you know –

I can see you on the podium, you know.

Well that's the last thing they said to me on Friday night! They said, ‘You'll come up on the roster with us, won't you?' And I said, ‘Well, I wasn't really expecting it that quickly!' He said, ‘Well, you can if you want to.' I said, ‘Well, I might as well have a go, you know.' Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And then, you know, I'm sure I shall be hitting the gavel in due course.

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